We bought a lie. Let’s not do it again.
This last year has taught us many things.There’s one lesson we’re not learning, amid all the talk of ‘returning to normal’.
Security is a lie.
Security is a lie.
Those who tell us ‘things have to be this way’ and ‘there’s no alternative’ are lying.
There are alternatives.
There are many, many alternatives.
We’ve been living them for the last year and a half.
Now, surely, it’s time to have the courage to embrace, build and defend alternatives.
Those who say ‘there is no alternative’ are those who benefit from things staying — or returning to — just how they used to be.
Those who say there is no alternative are those who don’t mention the deeper causes of the pandemic as, month after month, the tragedy deepens and the death toll mounts. They’re the ones who use this time to dispossess more people of their land, to grab political power, to enrich themselves. They’re those who are so dead inside they think their corruption is a public good.
They want us to return to the Old Normal because they benefit from the unsustainable violence it conceals.
They tempt us, cajole us, or threaten us , saying Normal will make us Secure.
Security is a lie.
The unexpected happens — a sudden company collapse, a personal crisis, a ‘black swan’ economic event — but we used to think there was ‘normal’ and ‘unexpected’. Our lives should consist of ‘normal’, and, every now and again, ‘the unexpected’ would turn up to keep us on our toes……
It doesn’t work that way.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes:
‘… life is the cumulative effect of a handful of significant shocks. …… Look into your own personal life, to your choice of profession, say, or meeting your mate, your exile from your country of origin, the betrayals you faced, your sudden enrichment or impoverishment. How often did these things occur according to plan?’ (‘The Black Swan’)
This was the lie they told us. They told us that if we paid the price we would buy a security that doesn’t exist.
It worked. They sold us the lie and we paid the price.
What was that price?
Normal is regular, unfulfilling work book-ended by a soul-destroying commute.
Normal is air pollution and undrinkable water.
Normal is Supermarkets bankrupting farmers.
Normal is people — somewhere out of sight and mind — working for slave wages.
Normal is extinction of species after species.
Normal is the wanton destruction of every aspect of our life-supporting ecosystem.
Normal is obscene inequality.
Normal is dying seas, dead coral and vast tracts of burning rain forest.
Normal is a field that support no insect life.
Normal is self-medication to the point of numbness and self-destruction.
Normal is social collapse and existential despair.
Normal is living vicariously through celebrities instead of just… living.
Normal denies the vitality of being alive.
That’s the price, we were told, of security.
We were told there was no choice. No alternative.
Anyone, or group, or indigenous peoples who disagreed were eradicated.
There was no alternative.
The security it bought was an illusion.
‘Play it safe’ was a lie.
‘Conform to stay secure’ was a lie.
‘There is no alternative’ was a lie.
‘That’s just how it has to be’ was a lie.
The old normal was a lie
We don’t have to return to it.
Nor should we want to.
The old normal made us complicit in systematic planetary abuse and in the unsustainable exploitation of other people (usually unreported and in distant lands).
Perspectives can change.
There ARE alternatives.
Pandemic Normal has severed our connections and tested our bodies and minds.
Who would have imagined, 15 months ago, things we now take for granted? Today the main news headline, in the UK, is that we’re now permitted to hug (though only a small number of people). PERMITTED TO HUG? We can buy a drink in a bar with people from a couple of other households. Such restrictions, two years ago, would have been the stuff of dystopian TV. It would be a thrilling imaginative excursion from our Secure Normality. We would watch such things on Netflix and be glad we’d bought security, even if we paid with our souls and the future of our kids and with the entire planet where we live.
Security. It seemed worth it, until you thought about it very much.
Now masks, distance, isolation, staying home and so much more has become our Pandemic Normal.
Now’s the time to imagine Post-pandemic normal.
The old normal was 19th century, nationalist, Northern Hemisphere colonialism out-sourced to corporations.
It meant overwork and under-sleep. It involved external validation (through wages, ‘likes’, possessions or career). It required each of us to kill our innate inner life of service, community, respect and (‘old-fashioned concept’ alert) ‘honourable decency’.
The old normal created intersecting Environmental, Social and Climate Emergencies which will be our main legacy to those who come after us.
How do we make alternatives?
Let’s start by hearing — individually and collectively — our inner voices. They reveal to each of us our path to becoming fully human — and thus reveal to us our best self. Let’s also listen to, honour and celebrate the voices of others — those we know and those we don’t, those who are like us, those who are not.
If we give up the fear that encouraged us to pay such a high price for the illusion of security, we might access a deeper self, one that yearns for authentic connection to dreams, to others and to this beautiful, damaged planet that we share.
That’s another price we paid — we buried our innate goodness beneath layer upon layer of sedimented fear. We believed that soul-slaughter and slaughter of our ecosystem was worth it because we were scared.
We wanted to be secure in a world without security.
We allowed ourselves to be sold a lie and we paid a terrible price.
Let’s give up fear.
Let’s fully live until inevitably we die.
Let’s move beyond the lies of Secure Normality and, instead of going back, let’s move forward. Let’s make connections based in service and respect.
I’m not saying we ignore the past. The Old Normal created many great things. But the cost was too high. That cost was paid by the poorest, by the more-than-human, and by future generations.
Let’s build, not retreat.
Let’s go forward, not back.
Let’s listen for our inner voice of creative genius and put ourselves in service of a new, sustainable and uncertain normal.
Let’s embrace the unknowability of it all.
The great contemporary Indian writer Arundhati Roy put it so beautifully in April last year as this unfolding global tragedy began to reveal its shape:
Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us.
Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.
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I’ve spent three decades as a performer, teacher and director across Europe, the Americas, India and Australasia. My particular focus was on deep-level training of performers, specialising in presence, interconnection and creativity.
I now work as a consultant, teacher and mentor across corporate, educational and community fields, mentoring individuals in applying the 8 Principles of Presence and training people in Communicating With Confidence.
My approach to training is called Self-With-Others and forms the basis of all my work.